We are one people

During a recent lecture tour, I was asked whether our neuroscientific instrument MiND would produce the same results in the 'Third World' as it would in a 'First World' country. I was rather taken aback by the question.

The term Third World was coined during the Cold War to refer to the countries that were not aligned to either NATO or the Communist Block. It therefore referred to a political grouping, but its meaning gradually changed over time to refer to economic circumstances. The term is less often used today, with people being more inclined to refer to 'Developing Countries'.

However, regardless of the term, I find the sentiment offensive. Suggesting that a country is 'Third World' or 'Developing' implies that another is somehow better, or more advanced. Countries such as the UK and America are often referred to as 'advanced economies' or countries of 'The West', yet in these so-called sophisticated democracies, problems still exist. For example, America currently is holding around 15,000 migrant children in detention centres separate from their parents, has an ever-increasing prison population, and the number of guns owned by civilians exceed the entire population of the country. While in Britain, we are tearing ourselves apart over Brexit, our schools and hospitals are reaching crisis point and, despite our willingness to spend billions of pounds on governmental pet projects, we still have queues at food banks and will have hundreds of people sleeping rough on our streets this Christmas.

The irony is, that when the Human Genome Project finally published the finished sequence in 2004, one of the most striking findings was that there are no race-specific genes in humans. Rather, an individual's genome reveals his or her ancestral lineage, which is simply a function of the interbreeding among population groups dating as far back as the Neanderthals. Indeed, it is estimated that, regardless of whether you are black, white, rich, poor, short, tall, Australian or Alaskan, we are all approximately 99% genetically the same!

Unfortunately, one of the consequences of these genetic similarities is that we share weaknesses as well as strengths; one of the worst being our tendency to feel threatened by people we perceive to be different. As a result, we have a tendency to categorise people; pro-Trump/anti-Trump, Catholic/Protestant, Hutu/Tutsi, right-wing/left-wing, and at the moment in Britain, pro-Brexit/anti-Brexit.

My objection to the categorisation of first or third world countries is that it is yet another concept that moves us away from the realisation that we are one people. That the world over we all want the same things - sufficient food, warmth, shelter and a safe place to raise our children. The fact that we argue over the best ways of achieving these things is not a problem, provided we all remember that one day in the future, the likelihood is that we will be arguing over something completely different, and that the people whose support we will seek then, may well be the same people we oppose today.

Finally, to answer the question, MiND results vary according to the preference, energy and motivation of the people completing the questionnaire. Where upbringing and cultural heritage influences those factors, the MiND results will vary accordingly. However, there is no evidence within the mass of data we have collected since the launch of MiND in 2011 that would enable us to guess the nationality, ethnicity or gender of an individual respondent. We are one people.


Almost 15,000 Migrant Children Now Held At Nearly Full Shelters, NPR, 13/12/18.
The Human Genome Project: big science transforms biology and medicine, Hood & Rowen Genome Medicine 2013.
How Genetically Similar Are Two Random People? Cell Biology by the Numbers, 2015.
Civilian Firearms Holdings, 2017. Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva.

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